Summer 2014 Issue of ESR

8 replies on “Summer 2014 Issue of ESR”

This is wonderful stuff – if you live in la-la land. I suspect that most folk have no conception of what ‘sustainability’, in the economic sense, actually means. It means continuing at the existing level (no future increases) of aggregate global economic output. In effect, we all stay as we are. Why?

Well, as I am somewhat tired of saying, and some of you are may be equally tired of reading, we do not have the fossil-fuel resources to keep increasing global economic activity at the optimal rate of +3% per annum, compounding. Liquid fossil-fuels are the key to this. They are essential and critical. The other two, coal and gas are important, but are complementary to the liquids. As the global production of liquids decreases, neither coal nor gas can substitute for the loss. Hence, our global economic outputs will diminish. More in some places, less so in others. There are worrying signs that this may in fact be occurring. Its a slow, inexorable process. Takes time for the effects to become noticeable. The current global financial crisis is masking some of the problem.

Some commentators assert that we will have 9 billion folk on the planet. Maybe so, I doubt it. At present we have 7 billion? and if we could share out the daily global production of liquid fossil fuels equally, each of us would have just about 2 litres each. So, something will have to ‘give’.

If we are to ‘sustain’ the 2 litres person/day liquid fossil fuel paradigm, then we either need to start increasing global liquid fossil fuel production, or we need to reduce the number of folk. The former is stalled; the latter moving up nicely. The differential between 7 billion and 9 billion would be a 25% decrease in our daily quantity of liquid fuel.

In case any reader is under the impression that all the new-found, unconventional fossil fuel resources will ‘save us’. Please think again. What is happening, in the case of liquid fuels, is that the increase in daily production in unconventionals is near enough equal to the the daily decline in conventionals. Total global output is being sustained.

The bottom ‘sustainability’ line. Global economic output and global liquid fossil fuel output are Siamese twins. Where the second goes, so also goes the first.

Good luck with all those worthy developmental goals.

Ossian, evidence? Are you actually serious? If you are, fair enough.

I would hold strongly to the opinion that absent liquid fossil fuels* (we still had some residual coal and gases) or economy would resemble that of the 1890s. The technology to use liquid fuels effectively was in the early stages of development and adoption. Is that evidence? Or have you some specific observed, verifiable facts in mind? Just asking.

* Its not going to ‘run dry’. Its just going to be fearfully costly (money and energy) to extract, refine and supply to consumers. The finance to ramp up the alternatives is estimated at $2.5 billion, per year. Who has that sort of money?


we had this here repeatedly before, like

that the 2.5 trillion, you just allege, but do not provide any kind of reference, calculation, link, whatever for are doable

Most people try to go a little beyond just making wild statements.

And while I am at it, getting my toilet repaired:

The paper above “The value of water” is nonsense. It says that Water resources in Germany would be under “high stress”, where the opposite is true.

Consumption dropped from ca 150 liter per person per day to 92 in East Germany, after some reasonable price (2 Euro per cubic meter) was asked for. A significant number of people left, and that means, that the water supply system is TOO LARGE in several places.

To the paper “Sustainable Food Systems for Future Cities: The Potential of Urban Agriculture”

what is this? Have these people ever heard of economics of scale, division of labor?

Agriculture in Cities is a labor of love, extremely effort inefficient, and does not contribute one bit to sustainability.

200 years ago, folks like von Thünen were making explicit, quantitative models, what kind of agriculture is done in what distance to the city.

Most would accept that there was a strong link between economic growth and liquid fossil fuel technology in the 20th century.

The question is what will motivate economic development in this century?

The rapidity with which a country is exhausting her finite resources may not be the best metric for long term economic growth and Kuznets was the first to point this out.


the link for energy consumption until 1974, yes, but even in the late 60ties there was this dream of ultra-cheap, safe, home grown nuclear : – )

economic development will be motivated, as always, by cost pressure and desires, especially for new things.

as in the link above, I assume raw energy costs to go up by 8% nominal, and that means we want to reduce this consumption by 5% or more, to keep the costs under control. And we regulate matching of supply and demand with the price, a truly revolutionary concept : – )

water is the perfect example for a perfectly renewable resource, at least here around. gives a good overview about various historic cost structures etc.

francis, sorry about delay in replying. Been minding the grandkids. The $2.5 bill figure is a ‘quesstimate’ of the annual monetary investment which may be needed to build out the global electricity generating capacity (I cannot recall seeing a specific figure being mentioned for Europe) to ensure the different energy development goals, which include atmospheric carbon reduction, are met. My source is which is run by Gail Tverberg, an actuary, who is interested in finite resource issues (oil, gas, water and climate change). She seems quite sensible, if somewhat repetitive, in what she is writing. I’m not promoting her, just acknowledging where I got the basic information about the global build-out costs over the next 20 years. Hope this is useful.

I’ve known about ‘urban agriculture’ for a long time. We used to call them allotments. They are still around. Its a lot of hard work. I suspect they will become popular again.


those allotments are called “Schrebergarten” in Germany, typically organized in “Vereine” associations of a few 100s, typically about 500 square meter, of which typically some 1/3 – 1/2 has to be used to grow something. Typically folks have to pay about 100 Euro per year and spend a few hours on some general work.

Nice summary for Germany

I am all for it, if I would be sure to stay in this place for at least 5 years, I would get one too. At least some 1% of the population learn to grow something by themselves without owning a house, that is 4% in the east with the low house ownership rate, and then know that this is just a hobby, in stark contrast to some ESR authors.

for “sustainability” this is however completely irrelevant.

300 km, of which maybe half =150 used for agri,
compared to 119 000 km^2 commercial (,

is 0.1%

This is for play, for kids, for recreation, to plant some herbs, but certainly not volume production.

the same goes for your completely insane web site.

There is simply no question at all, that this simple extrapolation of the IEA of cost of energy vs GDP will be paid (at about 3%)

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